Saturday, April 6, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Years during Cultural Revolution

The Original Story:
Besides the various physical and mental abuses, including a grusome gang-rape, Fu Ping claimed to have suffered during the Cultural Revolution, in Bend, Not Break as well as numerous media interviews, Fu Ping maintained two main "facts" of her life in that terrible decade:

  1. that she never received any formal education as in regular (the equivalent of K-12) schools
  2. that she had been forced to work in factories, farms, and even be a "child soldier" in military camps
A couple of earlier media profiles of Fu Ping went so far as to claim that Fu Ping was sent to "concentration camp", "collective farm", or "labor camp", including the original title of the Forbes article that helped to start the controversy.

The Earlier Story:
There were no such claim in her earlier book Drifting Bottle. (This could be understandable since that book was published in China although it has been free and open to talk about sufferings during Cultural Revolution in China as well.) There were several casual mentions of regular education in China in that book, including this little sentence on Page 66:
I remember when I graduated from high school, all I wanted is to leave the warm cocoon of my parents. As if that as soon as I passed my 18th birthday, my wings became so strong that I had to fly. All the friends close to me were talking enthusiastically of how to fly freely. If not for an occasional hesitation at the time, I would have volunteered with a group of my classmates to go to Inner Mongolia for farming work.
The Changing Story:
After her tale of forced labor being widely criticized, Fu Ping issued the following "clarification" on March 6, 2013:
Why did you say you were in a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution? 
I did not say or write that I was in a labor camp; I stated that I lived for 10 years in a university dormitory on the NUAA campus. Chinese children don't get put in labor camps. I also did not say I was a factory worker. I said Mao wanted us to study and learn from farmers, soldiers and workers. 
The Debunking:
The above clarification by Fu Ping is clearly a lie as there are many instances in her book that she stated she was a factory worker. Although the phrase "labor camp" did not appear in her book or recorded interviews, one might be able to forgive Forbe's Jenna Goudreau for acquiring that mistaken impression from the tales she had been telling. We will get through that in more detail in separate posts following this one.

There are also evidences as well as hints in her book that she had actually attended regular schools in those years just as every other kid in China did, except for the first couple of years of the Cultural Revolution. The Drifting Bottle paragraph shows that she graduated from high school and had close friends and classmates, a much more reasonable tale than that she is telling today.

Fu Ping's clarification is actually a big hint in itself. It is true that Mao wanted school pupils to "learn from farmers, soldiers, and workers" (学工学农学军) during the Cultural Revolution and a large portion of the school curriculum at the time was devoted to such activities instead of classroom teaching. It is also a fact, however, that all such activities were organized by schools. For Fu Ping to have participated in these learning-through-labor experiences, she would have been in regular schools at the time.

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